The Ramakatha literature tells us again and again of Rama’s equanimity. The storytellers point out repeatedly that even in the presence of the greatest of tragedies, Rama never lost his serenity, never lost his composure. And as the most striking example for this they point out Rama’s not losing his cool even when the kingdom was snatched away from him by Kaikeyi at the last moment and given to Bharata and he himself was asked to go to the jungle for fourteen years.
I was curious to see if Valmiki agreed to this view of Rama. Did Valmiki see Rama as equanimous as the subsequent Ramakathas portray, or did he want to paint his hero in human shades? Is the epic Rama the same as the divine Rama? Is it possible to achieve epic greatness, as Valmiki’s Rama definitely does, in spite of being human, with human weaknesses – this is what I wanted to see. Since the events around the crowning of Rama as the crown prince are often quoted as the best example for Rama’s equanimity, it is these that I chose to look closely into to begin with.
On that fateful pushya day in the month of Chaitra, early in the morning Rama is called by Sumantra, the minister, into Kaikeyi’s palace where Dasharatha is with her. The previous day he had been told he would be crowned as yuvaraja and the crowning would take place the next day itself. Rama had been asked to spend the night in between observing various vows.
The summons was a surprise to him. He hadn’t expected to be called by his father so early in the day. In Kaikeyi’s palace, he is told by Kaikeyi that it has been decided to crown Bharata as yuvaraja instead of him, and he will have to go to Danadakaranya and live there for fourteen years. Rama says evam astu, let it be so, and then he asks, “But why is the king not talking to me as happily as he always does?”
Valmiki’s Ramayana tells us in this context that “Rama did not become sad when he heard the news” and again, making it still clearer, “As Rama rejected the kingdom and made up his mind to go to the jungle, no reactions were seen in his mind, as in one who has grown beyond everything worldly.”
So Valmiki too says that Rama was unaffected by the decision to crown Bharata and by the order for him to go to the Dandaka forest for fourteen years.
And yet the same Valmiki says two verses later that it is not that Rama did not feel sad about it all, he was sad. Leaving Kaikeyi’s palace, Rama goes straight to his mother’s place. Talking about this Valmiki says, “Holding his sorrow in his mind and controlling his senses, Rama, in possession of himself, entered his mother’s palace, to give her the unpleasant news .
Rama held his sorrow in his mind – which means there was sorrow, but he did not show it outside. He held it in his heart and controlled his senses, which were probably becoming uncontrollable.
What are we then to conclude – that Rama was affected by the news or that he was not, according to Valmiki?
To solve this riddle, I decided to look into Rama’s behavior subsequent to his visit to his mother. The Rama who reaches his own palace, where Sita is waiting for him, eager to hear the progress of the crowning, perhaps wondering why he was called to Kaikeyi’s palace so early in the morning, springs up as Rama enters her chamber and one look at him, she starts to tremble. For, he is tormented by sorrow, his mind deeply disturbed by worries . And Valmiki tells us that seeing her, Rama could no longer hold his sorrow in his mind, could no more endure his suffering and all that was in his mind came pouring out. Rama’s face turned pale, he started perspiring all over, and went into a rage .
The word that I have translated as rage is amarsha in Sanskrit. The word can mean many things but one of the common meanings is anger and another is frustrated rage, the fury that possesses you when you cannot do anything against someone who has harmed you.
It appears that Rama was definitely affected by what he was told by Kaikeyi. And, as the sage-poet says, he held his torment in his heart. In Kaikeyi’s palace he did not want to show that he was affected by her words and for that reason did not reveal his true feelings but hid them in his heart, held his emotions down in his mind. Wore, as though, a mask.
Why would Rama do that?
Well, Rama was perhaps behaving exactly as a prince was supposed to behave, as a scion of the Ikshwakus was supposed to behave, as the son of Dasharatha was supposed to behave. As any noble kshatriya was supposed to behave.
In Kaikeyi’s palace there were other people present. When Rama comes to meet Kaikeyi and Dasharatha, the sight we see is not the one of the night where Dasharatha was alternatively begging Kaikeyi and cursing her, asking her to change her mind, both of them on the floor all the time. When Rama comes to meet them, they are decently seated, Dasharatha sitting next to Kaikeyi. Probably there were other people present right there – servants, other attendants.
Also, before Rama has left the palace, the Ramayana tells us, the whole place was filled with the loud cries of queens. Rama has not yet left, he is just leaving with joined palms, when there arose the agonized cries of the queens, filling the whole palace with their distress.
These queens are not Kausalya and Sumitra – they are yet to hear the news. These are the other queens of Dasharatha. The Ramayana specifically uses the word queens to describe them – mahishyah. These are the other three hundred and fifty queens of Dasharatha referred to in other places in the Ramayana, as when Rama later comes to take leave of his father on his way to the jungle. When Rama comes to meet the king, Dasharatha says he will see Rama in the company of all his queens and asks Sumantra to call all of them who are around. Three hundred and fifty of them come , along with Kausalya, and it is with them that the King sees Rama. It is the cry of these queens that fill the palace as Rama is leaving the palace with joined palms. These women wail aloud, like cows being separated from their calves, and wailing, they say the king has lost his mind, and abuse their husband , hearing which a distressed Dasharatha clings to his seat.
These queens were present not far from the place. And Rama wanted to behave dignified in their presence. Dignified as befitting the eldest prince of Ayodhya. Hence the mask of indifference, of equanimity, of imperturbableness.
Why does Rama then hide his feelings in the presence of Kausalya? Of course, in her palace too there could have been other people present. But apart from that there is another important reason why he wears the mask of equanimity before his mother. Kausalya would not have been able to endure the suffering of Rama. Even as it is, in spite of Rama’s show of indifference, Kausalya faints when she is told of what has happened.
In the Ramayana Kausalya is a miserable soul, living in a world of darkness and suffering, constantly wishing to harm her enemy, to avenge herself, avenge her ignominy. She is deeply unhappy with her lot, jealous of Kaikeyi, loudly complains about her husband, is frequently vituperative, and faints at every chance. She tells Rama that she never once received the respect due to a queen when her husband is in power, her husband has always given her only total rejection, never any love, and her position has been that of one of the servants of Kaikeyi, or even worse . She tells Rama that her only hope had been that he would one day be king, and it is this that has been keeping her alive.
And later, on his first day alone with Sita and Lakshmana away from Ayodhya, spending the night under a banyan tree in the jungle, when Rama recalls his mother, the picture that comes to his mind is frightening in its implications. He recalls Kausalya as standing by the cage of her pet parrot and that parrot repeating the words ‘shuka padam arer dasha’ – Parrot, bite the foot of the enemy .
This is the picture of Kausalya that comes to his mind. The only picture. Of her mother standing by that cage and her pet parrot repeating her constant words to it – ‘Parrot, bite the foot of the enemy.’ This is what the lonely, abandoned woman constantly tells it. Her most common words to the parrot, her constant words to the parrot, which the bird has learnt to repeat when Kausalya comes near it.
It is not Rama’s enemy she is speaking about, for Rama has none. It is not Dasharatha’s enemy she is speaking about – for Dasharatha has none. It is her own enemy she is speaking about – her enemy who usurped her seat in Dasharatha’s heart, in his bed. The talented Kaikeyi who could ride a chariot, drive it in the middle of a battlefield. The Kaikeyi whom Valmiki in the space of a single verse compares to anapsara, a kinnari, the goddess Maya, tempter of all, and a fawn – and that is when she has removed all her make up, cast away all her ornaments, let lose her hair and is lying on the floor of the Kopabhavana. Whose palace Valmiki compares to heaven itself. And seeking whose bed Dasharatha had gone on that evening before the crowning, charged with sexual desire, in need of sexual release . Whose son he had declared the heir to the throne by offering rajyashulka to Kaikeyi’s father at the time of his wedding to her.
Kausalya is old and weak. She has been living in a world of darkness so long as Rama can remember, her heart full of anguish, frustration, fury, vengeance, with the only light there being the hope that one day Rama would be king. It would have been dangerous for Rama to reveal his true feelings before her. He holds them in his heart. Even when Lakshmana shouts in naked fury and talks of killing Dasharatha and taking the throne by force.
But Rama was definitely upset. Rama was definitely frustrated. He was not indifferent to his changed fortunes, not equanimous.
Of course there are signs that tell us that Rama was affected deeply by the news as soon as he heard it. His first question after he was told that Bharata would be crowned as yuvaraja and he would have to go to the jungle for fourteen years indicates his deep inner turmoil, his complete confusion, the tumult that is going on in his mind.
On being told that Bharata will be crowned as yuvaraja and he himself will have to go to Dandakaranya for fourteen years, the Ramayana twice, in two consecutive verses spread through two chapters, in the end verse of one chapter and the beginning verse of the other, tells us Rama was not upset at the news, he was not worried, he did not become sad. In the last verse of Chapter 18 of Ayodhya Kanda, we are told na chaiva ramah pravivesha shokam – Rama did not ‘enter sorrow’, he did not become sad, did not grieve. And in the first shloka of the next chapter we are told na vivyathe ramah – Rama did not worry, he was not anguished. He says, evam astu, let it be so – I shall go from here to live in the jungle dressed as an ascetic and wearing matted hair, obeying the command of the king . He does not ask why this change in plans have taken place, does not enquire why he has to go to the jungle in addition to Bharata being crowned as yuvaraja. He shows no curiosity about these vital matters. It is as though he has expected this, as though there is nothing surprising about these orders, or that he is too shocked to ask these questions.
Instead, Rama asks a strange question. Immediately after accepting to order to go to the jungle without protest, by just saying let it be so, he asks in the very next verse, “But I want to know one thing – why is the king not greeting me as cheerily as he always does?” It is this question that indicates his deep inner turmoil, the tumult that is going on within him, the chaotic confusion in his mind.
Would a tranquil, equanimous Rama, with his mind and senses in his control, have expected the very sentimental, weak Dasharatha to be cheerful under the circumstances? What has been dashed to the ground and shattered to pieces is Dasharatha’s lifelong dream, the only ambition of his old age, the one sight to see which he has been living all these years – Rama’s crowning as yuvaraja. In one single night Kaikeyi has destroyed that dream. His calling for the meeting of his military chiefs, his senior officers, chief citizens, samantas, planned to take place at a time when Bharata was away, his seeking their approval and getting it, his announcement that the crowning would take place the very next day – all these have been smashed to smithereens by Kaikeyi. He has no more hopes to live for – the son whom he loves dearer than his very life has not only been deprived of the throne, he has been asked to go to the jungle for fourteen years and he perhaps knows that he will not live for fourteen more years to see him again – and Rama asks why Dasharatha is not cheerful as usual! Such is Dasharatha’s love for Rama that at a later time, appearing before him in Lanka long after his death, he would declare that even heaven holds no joys for him since Rama is not there – and that Rama is being denied the kingdom and sent into exile into the horrors of Dandakaranya for fourteen years – and Rama asks why the king is not cheery as usual, why he does not greet him with delight as usual! No, this question is not of an equanimous, tranquil, unaffected Rama. Only a Rama who is deeply shocked by the events, thoroughly confounded, is in turmoil, can ask that question.
Incidentally, I believe Rama had expected something like this to happen. When Dasharatha first calls him and tells him of the decision to give the crown of yuvaraja to him, Rama does not tell a word. And when he is called once again to tell the crowning will take place the same day, he does not say a word again. He knew all the while that he had no right to the throne – and as a deeply righteous man, as a deeply dharma-loving man, as a strict follower of dharma, something must have told him, there must definitely have been whispers in his tremulous heart, that something was bound to go wrong. Perhaps along with shock of the news, the realization of his fears coming true must also have confounded him.
Whatever that be, what is certain is that Rama was certainly not unaffected by Kaikeyi’s words. He was certainly affected. Deeply affected. So deeply that he could not even think clearly. The question why his father is not cheerful, why he is not greeting him with his usual cheerfulness, under those circumstances, can come only from a mind that has been so deeply shocked that it has for the time being lost the ability to think clearly.
And yet the fact that he was able not to show his deep inner turmoil speaks highly of his self control. It is not in his not feeling the shock that Rama is like a sage, but in controlling those feelings, in not showing it. He does not show it in Kaikeyi’s palace, he does not show it to his friends waiting outside, he does not show it to Kausalya – it is only when he reaches Sita that he breaks down. That speaks highly of him. But to say that he was unaffected by the news would be completely wrong.
There are plenty of other proofs in the Ramayana to show that Rama was not unaffected by this incident, that he was deeply disturbed by it. (I personally believe that the incident affects Rama so deeply that after it Rama becomes a different person.)
Leaving behind a weeping Ayodhya almost mad with grief, in a scene very closely reminiscent of the later leaving of the Pandavas for the jungle after the second dice game, Rama travels towards the Tamasa, followed by a large number of people who refuse to leave him. That night they camp with him on the banks of the Tamasa and later, early in the morning, leaving them sleeping there, he proceeds on his way. He crosses the Tamasa, the Vedashruti, Gomati and Syandika rivers and reach the Ganga and spend the night on its banks as the guest of Guha. Next morning they cross the Ganga – it is only after this that Sumantra, who has been all this while with them, goes back. That evening, after performing his sandhya rites, Rama, resting under a banyan tree, tells Lakshmana: “This is our first night alone away from Ayodhya without Sumantra.”
For the first time since he heard those words that shocked him and shook the foundations of his life, he is alone. For the first time since his ambitions have been given a blow that shattered it, he is alone. For the first time since he learnt that he would now never be the great Ikshwaku king that he wanted to be, he is alone.
And there are no servants watching. There are no queens watching. His mother is not watching. The adoring crowds of Ayodhya are not watching. Even Sumantra is not watching. He is alone with Sita and Lakshmana – before whom he needs no mask.
And that night, under that banyan tree, Rama casts away the mask he has been wearing since he heard Kaikeyi’s words in her palace. He holds his feelings back in his heart no more. What happened before Sita in Ayodhya was an accident – emotions had so overpowered him that he broke down completely. But now there is no need for him to suppress his true feelings in his heart. For the first time since he is free to be himself.
And Rama breaks down completely. He gives vent to all that was in his heart – and all his pain, all his anguish, all his torment, all his anger, his fury, jealousy, all come out freely.
Revealing to us how thoroughly he had lost his equanimity, Rama tells Lakshmana that in Ayodhya the king must certainly be sleeping unhappily while Kaikeyi must be very happy since she has accomplished what she wanted .
Rama is right about the king. But Kaikeyi – was she happy in Ayodhya? Had she accomplished what she wanted? I think the answer to both these questions is no.
Kaikeyi had never wanted Bharata to be king. She never wanted him to be the heir to the throne. The promise of rajyashulka that Rama tells Bharata of while they were in Chitrakoota and which made Bharata the heir to the throne of Ayodhya, was taken from Dasharatha not by her but by her father – as Rama himself says: “Long ago when our father married your mother, he gave your Grandfather that unsurpassed vow of rajyashulka” . In all probability it was he, Kaikeyi’s father, who had insisted on it. Perhaps he felt reluctant to give his young, beautiful, highly accomplished daughter – there are reasons to believe Kaikeyi was the most accomplished woman of the age – to the old king, and extracted this promise from him just as later Dasharaja would extract the same promise from the old Shantanu before he gave his daughter Krishna Satyavati to him in marriage in the Mahabharata.
The conditions in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana were different, though. Shantanu felt great reluctance to make that promise. He already had a grown up son who was expected to succeed him as king. There is no reason to assume Dasharatha felt anything like that. There was no need. He had been married to his other queens for a long, long time and yet hadn’t had any children by them except Shanta. As far as we know, the marriage itself was perhaps undertaken with the hope that this new queen might give him a male child – so there would have been no reluctance on his part to make that promise.
I do not think Kaikeyi ever took that promise of rajyashulka seriously. For the Ramayana tells us clearly that Kaikeyi considered Rama her eldest son – she loved him even more than she loved Bharata. And this love lasted not one day or two, but all the twenty-five years of Rama’s life until that eve of the crowning. Never had she treated Rama other than as her dearest son.
When on the eve of the coronation Manthara discovers of what was to take place and comes and informs Kaikeyi, her spontaneous, immediate reaction is one of boundless joy. Her heart dancing in happiness, Kaikeyi gives Manthara a precious ornament for bringing the news. Nothing could be happier than this – she tells her. Not content with what she has given Manthara, Kaikeyi asks her to ask for anything she wishes – she would give it to her, so great is her happiness at the news of the coronation of Rama. It takes a lot of persuasion on the part of Manthara to convince Kaikeyi how she is being betrayed. It is only then that she enters the Kopabhavana, deciding to alter the course of events. When that night Dasharatha comes to her charged with sexual desire, she insists on the coronation of Bharata and sending Rama to the jungle for fourteen years.
These are certainly not things she always wanted. Until she learnt of the attempt of Dasharatha to betray her and Rama’s silent assent to it, it is Rama that she wanted to be the yuvaraja, not Bharata, though that position belonged to Bharata as per the rajyashulka. And until that moment she had no intention of sending Rama to the jungle. These are things she was forced to do – not things she did happily. Or else she would not have danced for joy at the news of Rama’s coronation as the crown prince. She did those things out of fury, for vengeance. Her mind could have been in turmoil because she did those things – she must have hated herself for doing those things. She must have been deeply bitter both about the plans to betray her and about the way she reacted to them. Such was her love for Rama. And Rama surely must have known this.
The statement that Rama makes under that banyan tree that night that Kaikeyi must be happy in Ayodhya having accomplished her aims is made by a deeply upset, a deeply bitter Rama. It is not made by an equanimous Rama. An equanimous Rama would have known about the bitterness in Kaikeyi’s heart, about the anguish she must be experiencing, her grief and sense of desolation. The Rama who speaks such cruel words about Kaikeyi is an embittered Rama, a Rama whose perception of reality has been clouded by anger, by despair, by frustration and fury. Rama’s words here show us how completely broken he was by the recent events.
Rama was deeply affected by the events of that Pushya day in Ayodhya. Soon after accusing Kaikeyi of being happy in Ayodhya while he himself is suffering in the jungle, Rama calls his father, to keep whose honor he has just left Ayodhya for fourteen years, a mad man – he suffers from lunacy, from delusions [mativibhrama], says Rama. Well, those are not the words of a Rama who is equanimous – those are the words of an embittered, frustrated, angry Rama.
In his anger Rama says that Kaikeyi might do away with Dasharatha – she may even take his life . This is definitely the frustration in Rama speaking. An equanimous Rama would know that Kaikeyi was never power hungry – even Dasharatha, in his fiercest fury, admits that Kaikeyi has never been wicked in the past. In fact, Dasharatha says she has never asked him for any thing in the past. Even the boons Dasharatha offered her she said she did not need – not immediately at least. Kaikeyi was deeply in love with Dasharatha. It was that love that had kept her young all these years. That love and her love for Rama. She was not capable of even entertaining such a thought as poisoning Dasharatha.
When Rama says Kaikeyi might take away Dasharatha’s life, it is not an equanimous Rama speaking. Those are the words of a deeply embittered, a completely frustrated Rama.
Not content with this, Rama goes on to say that Kaikeyi might poison his mother and Lakshmana’s mother . This is again not the equanimous Rama speaking. This is not the serene, composed Rama speaking. These are words arising from the deep hatred in Rama’s heart. Hatred generated by the recent events. Or at least hatred awakened by the recent events. For it will be safe to assume Rama did have an element of hatred for the woman who had pushed his mother out of her marital bed, who had pushed her out of her husband’s heart, who had made her so miserable that she, Kausalya, would complain that she hadn’t known a single day’s happiness in her married life, that the king had never given her anything other than neglect and insults, that her position was that of one of Kaikeyi’s servants or even worse.
That night under the nyagrodha, in the aloneness of the jungle, Rama shows another face of his frustration – the green face. Rama tells Lakshmana that night that Bharata would now enjoy the kingdom all alone.
We know that Bharata was not like that. We know that Bharata would refuse to touch the kingdom even when it was forced on him. We know that Bharata would cling to Rama’s feet and beg him again and again to take the kingdom back from him.
And Rama knew Bharata would behave exactly like that.
In Chitrakoota, when Lakshmana climbs up that tree and sees Bharata coming with his army, he tells Rama that Bharata is coming to kill both of them so that he can enjoy the kingdom all by himself . And then he says that Bharata is their enemy and since he has come before them, they should make use of the chance to kill him – he deserves to be killed and he does not see anything wrong in killing Bharata . Rama reacts beautifully here – in emotion-filled words he vows by his bow that he has no desire for the kingdom for himself, if he desires the kingdom, it is for the sake of his brothers.
And then Rama tells Lakshmana why according to him Bharata has come to Chitrakoota. Bharata came to Ayodhya and there he learnt that he, Rama, has left for the jungle with Lakshmana and Sita. Moved by deep sorrow at this news, overpowered by love, he is coming to meet them – there is no other purpose behind his coming . In the next shloka, Rama reads Bharata’s character to perfection and his words sound as though he has seen what actually happened in Ayodhya in his absence – so true are they to what took place in the city he has left behind. Rama says: “Bharata must have become furious with Kaikeyi, and rebuking her and pleasing Father, he has come here to give the kingdom to me.” Of course, Rama misses the fact that Dasharatha has died in the meantime.
And then, continuing to read Bharata’s nature and censuring Lakshmana openly, Rama says: “If for the sake of the kingdom you speak such cruel words, when I meet Bharata I’ll ask him to give the kingdom to you. And Lakshmana, if I ask Bharata, he would readily obey me, saying, ‘Very good, let it be so.’”
The equanimous Rama knows Bharata has no desire for the kingdom, has never had any desire for the kingdom. The equanimous Rama knows Bharata is not tempted by the pleasures of the crown. When Rama says under the banyan tree in the loneliness of that night that Bharata would now be enjoying the kingdom all alone, it is not the equanimous Rama who is speaking. It is a Rama whose equanimity has been, for the time being at least, destroyed by the blow he has received, giving way to deep bitterness, despair and a host of other ordinary human feelings, that is speaking.
Further, in spite of knowing this unsurpassed nobility of Bharata, earlier too in Ayodhya, immediately after hearing from Kaikeyi the news of the change in the plans, Rama had shown this same bitterness towards Bharata he reveals that night. Speaking to Sita and asking her to stay back in Ayodhya, Rama tells her to be diplomatic with Bharata. “Never praise me before Bharata, never recall my qualities in front of him, never even mention me,” Rama tells her . Those words were not spoken by an equanimous Rama. Those are not the words of a Rama who loves his brother deeply, of a Rama who knows Bharata has no desire for power, of a Rama who know Bharata would worship the very ground where Sita stood. Those are the words of the frustrated, bitter, jealous Rama.
Valmiki tells us that under the banyan tree that night, alone with Sita and Lakshmana for the first time since leaving Ayodhya, Rama spoke these and many other things –etat anyat cha bahuh. And then Rama breaks down completely. And breaking down, he wails aloud. He wails aloud shattering the silence of the night. He wails aloud in unendurable anguish, tears rolling down his face. He wails aloud for the kingdom that he has lost, for his hopes that have been dashed on the ground, for his frustrated ambition, for his lost glory. He wails desolately for long. He wails in utter helplessness – until eventually he resigns himself to the situation. Until he surrenders and accepts the inevitable. And surrendering, accepting, becomes quiet. Quiet like fire without flames, quiet like the ocean spent of all passion, the Ramayana tells us.
That is not an unaffected Rama. That is definitely a deeply affected Rama. That is definitely a deeply disturbed Rama – a frustrated, bitter, broken Rama.
Another instance of Rama completely losing his equanimity is when he does not find Sita in Panchavati after she had been abducted by Ravana. Seeing the cottage empty, with things scattered everywhere, Valmiki says that Rama wept aloud again and again . Further, the Ramayana tells us, his deep sorrow rendered his eyes red and he began looking like a madman . Searching for Sita, Rama runs from tree to tree, and along the banks of rivers and on mountains. Running thus, the Ramayana tells us, Rama plunged deep into the ocean-like mire of sorrow. Speaking of his mental state then, Valmiki calls him aparisansthitah – meaning, he was beside himself, not with himself, or even not fully stable. Continuing the description of Rama’s state, Ramayana tells us further that weeping for Sita, Rama’s body began trembling all over, he lost his mind and, he kept wailing and repeating in a chocked voice the words “O my dear, O my dear’, while he began fast losing his consciousness. At one stage, deep in despair, Rama tells he would take his life .
This is definitely not the description of an equanimous Rama. This is a Rama who has completely lost his balance in his despair.
Yet another occasion when Rama is overpowered by feelings and loses his equanimity is when Hanuman returns from Lanka and gives Rama the choodamani sent by Sita and gives him Sita’s news. Once again when Lakshmana is wounded in the war Rama becomes almost insane with anguish.
The Ramayana shows us Rama losing his equanimity and plunging into deep sorrow repeatedly.
And sorrow is not the only emotion under which Rama loses his equanimity either.
Does this mean then that we should think the less of Rama for losing his equanimity?
I do not think so.
I strongly believe that it is this human face of Rama that has really endeared him to the ages. In spite of the concerted efforts of devotee-poets over millennia, the common man and woman have always felt deep in his unconscious, always realized intuitively in his heart, that Rama is a very human person – a very human person reaching out to super-humanness with very human hands. And reaching out feels all the emotions that you and I feel – including anger, frustration, jealousy, elation, generosity, pride…all those multitudes of hues and shades of life that makes it the colorful fabric it is.
We in Indian culture have always portrayed all our Gods colorfully – and these colors have included not just colors of strength but also pigments of the other facets of the living experience. Shiva can get into a wrath and destroy the world just as he can lose himself in his love for his wife. There are stories that tell us how Shiva became jealous because Parvati looked at someone, just as there are stories that tell us of Parvati becoming jealous because Shiva looked at some damsel. All our gods are very human and there is no reason why Rama could not have been equally human.
Personally, it is this Rama who can weep so openly, weep in bitterness and frustration, that I find lovable. I find the Rama who tries bravely to hold himself together and yet breaks down under the power of emotions lovable. I find the Rama who can hate Kaikeyi in his bitterness and yet pardon her and accept her when that bitterness disappears lovable. I find the Rama who can so frankly confess his inability to live without Sita, who says he cannot even breathe if he is away from her one moment lovable.
In those moments what I see is not a mask, but the genuine face of Rama. And Rama without a mask is a very lovable human being.